Advertisement

Mineralogy and Petrology

, Volume 112, Supplement 1, pp 7–22 | Cite as

Prospecting history leading to the discovery of Botswana’s diamond mines: from artefacts to Lesedi La Rona

  • Michiel C. J. de WitEmail author
Original Paper

Abstract

Bechuanaland/Botswana has a long and colourful history in exploration and mining. Here these activities are subdivided into three phases: pre-historic, historic and modern. Quarrying stone in Botswana was ongoing 500,000 years ago during the Early Stone Age (ESA). Actual mining of stones probably only started during the Middle Stone Age (MSA) i.e. post 250,000 BP, and the first prehistoric hard rock mining of specularite and limonite, likely started during the Late Stone Age (LSA) 20,000 to 2,000 BP. In east Botswana iron and copper were mined from AD 800 onwards; the mining of gold started in the thirteenth century. Historic mining started with the re-discovery of gold close to Francistown in 1865 and lasted until the 1950s. Rumours of diamonds in Bechuanaland had already surfaced in the 1880s, and it was Ngamiland, in the northwest, that was first explored systematically for diamonds and gold between 1896 and 1899. A joint initiative between Anglo American and De Beers started serious prospecting parts of eastern Bechuanaland between 1932 and 1938; and in 1938 the first diamond finds in Bechuanaland were reported. Modern mining and exploration started with the signing of an agreement in 1959, allowing Consolidated African Selection Trust Ltd. (CAST) into the Bamangwato Tribal Reserve. CAST found a few diamonds in the Motloutse River, but concluded that these were reworked and dropped the exploration rights. De Beers believed that these diamonds had come from west of the Motloutse headwaters, across the watershed in the Kalahari. This ultimately led to the discovery of the Orapa kimberlite field in 1967, a year after Botswana became independent. This discovery triggered a major exploration boom across Botswana adding important diamond-bearing kimberlites such as at Letlhakane (1968), Jwaneng (1973), Gope (1981) and Lerala (1991).

Keyword

Diamond exploration Bechuanaland Bamangwato 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The author is indebted to Gavin Lamont and Chris Jennings for having shared their exploration experiences. Catrien van Waarden, Manfred Marx, Jim Gibson, Andy Moore, Leon Daniels, Maarten de Wit, Eddie Köstlin, Barry Bayly, Mike Roberts and Marty McFarlane are thanked for input and discussions of various aspects of this historical summary. Reviews by Andrew Macdonald, Thomas Stachel and Jock Robey greatly improved this manuscript.

References

  1. Baldock JW, Hepworth JV, Marengwa BS (1976) Gold, base metals, and diamonds in Botswana. Econ Geol 71:139–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bayly BA (1998) Final report on prospecting licences 30 to 35/88 (central district), vol 1 and 2. De Beers Prospecting Botswana (Pty) Ltd., Gaborone, pp 1–112Google Scholar
  3. Bennett WE (1911) The prospecting of Khama’s country. A report to the resident mining engineer of the BSAC, p 7Google Scholar
  4. Bonneau A, Pearce D, Mitchell P, Staff R, Arthur C, Mallen L, Brock F, Higham T (2017) The earliest directly dated rock paintings from southern Africa: New AMS radiocarbon dates. Antiquity 91(356):322–333CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boocock C (1961) Annual report of the geological survey department for Bechuanaland protectorate 3, pp 35Google Scholar
  6. Boocock C (1965) Mineral resources of the Bechuanaland protectorate. Overseas Geol Miner Res 9(4):369–417Google Scholar
  7. Campbell A, Main M (2003) Guide to greater gaborone. Campbell, Main and Botswana Society Gaborone, p 292Google Scholar
  8. Campbell A, Robbins L, Taylor M (2010) Tsodilo Hills – Copper bracelet of the Kalahari. Michigan State University Press, p 180Google Scholar
  9. Cooke CK (1979) The stone age in Botswana: a preliminary survey. Arnoldia 8(27):1–32Google Scholar
  10. Crowder M (1985) Tshekedi khama and mining in Botswana 1929–1959. African Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, African Stud Semin Pap 172:1–17Google Scholar
  11. Davenport J (2015) Tati – the site of southern Africa’s first gold rush. Min Wkly June 19–25, p 21 and p 53Google Scholar
  12. De Villiers J Vermeulen (eds) (1959) The mineral resources of the Union of South Africa. Geological Survey of the Union of South Africa, Government Printer, Pretoria, p 50Google Scholar
  13. de Wit MCJ, Köstlin EO, Liddle RS (eds) (2011) Prospecting in Africa; narratives by early De Beers explorers in the search for diamonds. Creda Communications, Johannesburg, p 245Google Scholar
  14. Du Toit AL (1927) The Kalahari and some of its problems. S Afr J Sci 24:88–101Google Scholar
  15. Du Toit AL (1931) Memorandum on the Geological investigation of the Bechuanaland Protectorate. Internal Memo to the Assistant General Manager DBCM Ltd., p 8Google Scholar
  16. Du Toit AL (1932) Remarks upon the minutes of the Victoria Prospecting Company Ltd. Internal note to HT Dickinson, p 9Google Scholar
  17. Du Toit AL (1933a) Crustal movement as a factor in the geographical evolution of South Africa. S Afr J Sci 16:3–20Google Scholar
  18. Du Toit AL (1933b) Victoria Prospecting Company Ltd., Bechuanaland. Note to HT Dickinson. Consulting Engineer, Johannesburg, p 5Google Scholar
  19. Du Toit AL (1934a) Mineral concession: Bangwaketsi Native Reserve, Bechuanaland. Unpublished note to HT Dickinson. Consulting Engineer, Johannesburg, p 2Google Scholar
  20. Du Toit AL (1934b) Diamond prospecting operations in the Bechuanaland Protectorate. Unpublished note to HT Dickinson, Consulting Engineer, Johannesburg, p 4Google Scholar
  21. Du Toit AL (1938) Bechuanaland Prospecting. Unpublished note to HT Dickinson, Consulting Engineer, Anmercosa House Johannesburg, p 4Google Scholar
  22. Ebert J (1979) The significance of archaeological sites located near or in association with ancient strandlines of Lake Makgadikgadi, Botswana. Nyame Akuma 15:2–9Google Scholar
  23. Gerrard I (1960) A report on the sampling of the bed of the Upper Maklautsi River and of the gravels in the vicinity. Geological Survey of Bechuanaland Protectorate, Report No IG/8/60, p 4Google Scholar
  24. Gerrard I (1963) The Geology of the Foley area. An explanation of Quarter-degree Sheer 2127C. Geological Survey Bechuanaland Protectorate, 1959/60, pp 35–48Google Scholar
  25. Gibson JG, Joubert HP, Kramer W, Lamont GT (1964) Reconnaissance soil-sampling in Bechuanaland Protectorate. Internal report Kimberlitic Searches Ltd., p 4Google Scholar
  26. Heminway J (1983) No Man’s Land: the last of White Africa. Dutton Adult, p 298Google Scholar
  27. Huffman TN, van der Merwe HD, Grant MR, Kruger GS (1995) Early Copper mining of Thakadu, Botswana. J S Afr I Min Metall 2:53–61Google Scholar
  28. Jennings CNH (1966) Report on a geophysical survey carried out in the Mroba area, Kgatleng, in an attempt to delineate a kimberlite pipe. Geological Survey of Bechuanaland. Internal report, p 4Google Scholar
  29. Jennings CNH (1970) The discovery of diamonds in Botswana. S Afr J Sci 66(8):233–234Google Scholar
  30. Key R (1976) The geology of the area around Francistown and Phikwe, Northeast and Central Districts, Botswana. Geological survey of Botswana. District Memoir 3:121Google Scholar
  31. Kiyaga-Mulindwa D (1992) Iron working at Makodu in eastern Botswana. In: Sinclair P, Abdurahman J (eds) Urban Origins in Eastern Africa. The Swedish Central Board of National Antiquities, Stockholm paper 8:162–166Google Scholar
  32. Köstlin EO (2001) Brief history of the discovery of kimberlite pipe BK9 (The Damtshaa – Mine) in Botswana. Internal note with five maps by the Consulting Geophysicist to AAC and De Beers, p 5Google Scholar
  33. Lamont G (1964) Upper mantle currents, crustal fracture and warping and their possible influence on the distribution of kimberlite provinces and in diamond prospecting. Internal report Kimberlitic Searches Ltd., p 5Google Scholar
  34. Lamont G (1967) Renewal report for Bamangwato Crown Grant no.42 (1961–1966), De Beers Botswana Prospecting, p 9Google Scholar
  35. Lamont G (1994) The discovery of Orapa. Unpublished Memoires Memoire 7:1–4Google Scholar
  36. Lamont G (1998) The Discovery of Jwaneng. Unpublished Memoires Memoire 15:1–7Google Scholar
  37. Lee JE, Blaine JL, Jennings CMH (2009) The Gope 25 kimberlite discovery, Botswana, predicated on four Mg-ilmenite grains from reconnaissance soil samples. Explore 143:1–7Google Scholar
  38. Lock N (1985) Kimberlite exploration in the Kalahari region of southern Botswana with emphasis on the Jwaneng kimberlite province. Conference Paper on Prospecting in Areas of Desert Terrain. pp 183–190Google Scholar
  39. McGeorge I, Clegg A, Hand P, Mothomogolo J (2007) The Lerala Diamond project and diamond exploration properties in Botswana. Competent Person’s Report for Diamonex Ltd., MSA Geoservices Botswana, pp 1–118Google Scholar
  40. Moore AE, Cotterill FPD, Eckardt (2012) The evolution and ages of Makgadikgadi palaeo-lakes: consilient evidence from Kalahari drainage evolution, South-Central Africa. S Afr J Geol 115(3):385–413CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Murray A, Parsons N (1990) The modern economic history of Botswana. In: Konczacki ZA, Parpart JL, Shaw TM (eds) Studies in the economic history of southern Africa: the front line states, vol 1. Frank Cass Publishers, London, p 181Google Scholar
  42. Nash D, Coulson S, Staurset S, Ullyott S, Babusi M, Smith M (2016) Going the distance: mapping mobility in the Kalahari Desert during the Middle Stone Age through multi-site geochemical provenancing of silcrete artefacts. J Human Evolution 96:113–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Passarge S (1904) Die Kalahari: versuch einer physisch-geographischen Darstellung der Sandfelder des südafrikanischen Beckens, Dietrich Reimer (Ernst Vohsen), p 822Google Scholar
  44. Peter W (1995) Arbitration and renegotiation of international agreements, Kluwer Law International, p 443Google Scholar
  45. Rey CF Parsons N, Crowder M (eds) (1988) Monarch of all I Survey: Bechuanaland Diaries 1929–1937. The Botswana Society, Gaborone, p 282Google Scholar
  46. Rogers SJ, Hough TG, Davidson JM (2013) KX36 – rediscovering the diamond exploration potential of the central Kalahari in Botswana. J S Afr I Min Metall 113:593–545Google Scholar
  47. Schwarz EHL (1920) The Kalahari, or Thirstland Redemption. T. Maskew Miller, p 196Google Scholar
  48. Summers RFH (1969) Ancient mining in Rhodesia and adjacent area. Nat Mus Rhodesia Salisbury Memoir 3:76–78Google Scholar
  49. Tabler EC (1966). Pioneers of Rhodesia. C Struik Cape Town, p 185Google Scholar
  50. Tlou T, Campbell A (1997) History of Botswana. Revised 2nd ed Macmillan Botswana, p 278Google Scholar
  51. Van Waarden C (1989) Archaeological Impact Assessment, Bobonong – Lekkerpoot road. Commissioned by ZMCK, Consulting Engineers for the Department of Roads, p 27Google Scholar
  52. Van Waarden C (2011) The origin of Zimbabwe tradition walling. Zim Prehist 29:54–77Google Scholar
  53. Van Waarden C (2012) Butua and the end of an Era. The effect of the collapse of the Kalanga state on ordinary citizens. An analysis of behaviour under stress. Camb Monogr in Afr Archaeol 82:148–153Google Scholar
  54. Van Waarden C (2014) Prehistoric copper mining in Botswana. In: Selin H (ed) Encyclopaedia of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures. Springer Dordrecht, pp 1–13Google Scholar
  55. Vinès M, Tappe S, Stracke A, Wilson A, Rogers A (2017) Discovery of an orangeite magmatic event in the central Kalahari: Implications for the origin of southern African kimberlites. 11th Int Kimb Conf, Gaborone, Botswana, extended abstract 11IKC-4535, p 3Google Scholar
  56. Walker NJ, Segobye A (2001) Report on the archaeology of Damtshaa Mine. Unpublished mitigation report for the National Museum. Commissioned by Debswana Diamond Company (Pty) Ltd.Google Scholar
  57. Wayland EJ (1949). Minerals in the Bechuanaland Protectorate. Geological Survey of Bechuanaland report EJW/16/49, p 28Google Scholar
  58. Willis JHA (1960) Final report on the Bechuanaland investigation 1959/1960, Consolidated African Selection Trust. Report to Bechuanaland geological survey, p 7Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tsodilo Resources Ltd.GaboroneBotswana
  2. 2.Department of GeologyUniversity of PretoriaPretoriaSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations